Unmanliness

– Natural fairness and justice, I tell you now quite frankly, is this—that he who would live rightly should let his desires be I tell you now quite frankly, is this—that he who would live rightly should let his desires be as strong as possible and not chasten them, and should be able to minister to them when they are at their height by reason of his manliness and intelligence, and satisfy each appetite in turn with what it desires.

But this, I suppose, is not possible for the many; whence it comes that they decry such persons out of shame, to disguise their own impotence, and are so good as to tell us that licentiousness is disgraceful, thus enslaving the better type of mankind; and being unable themselves to procure achievement of their pleasures they praise temperance and justice by reason of their own unmanliness.

[…]

No, in good truth, Socrates—which you claim to be seeking—the fact is this: luxury and licentiousness and liberty, if they have the support of force, are virtue and happiness, and the rest of these embellishments—the unnatural covenants of mankind—are all mere stuff and nonsense.

– Then it is not correct to say, as people do, that those who want nothing are happy.

– No, for at that rate stones and corpses would be extremely happy.

Callicles

Escape from Freedom

The spiritual relatedness to the world can assume many forms; the monk in his cell who believes in God and the political prisoner kept in isolation who feels one with his fellow-fighters are not alone morally. The kind of relatedness to the world may be noble or trivial, but even being related to the basest kind of pattern is immensely preferable to being alone.

Religion and nationalism, as well as any custom and any belief however absurd and degrading, if it only connects the individual with others, are refuges from what man most dreads: isolation.

Erich Fromm – The Fear of Freedom

Pain and Boredom

The basis of all willing is need, deficiency, and thus pain. Consequently, the nature of brutes and man is subject to pain originally and through its very being. If, on the other hand, it lacks objects of desire, because it is at once deprived of them by a too easy satisfaction, a terrible void and boredom comes over it. Thus its life swings like a pendulum backwards and forwards between pain and boredom. This has also had to express itself very oddly in this way: after man had transferred all pain and torments to hell, there then remained nothing over for heaven but boredom.

The striving after existence is what occupies all living things and maintains them in motion. But when existence is assured, then they know not what to do with it; thus the second thing that sets them in motion is the effort to get free from the burden of existence, to make it cease to be felt, “to kill time,” i.e., to escape from boredom. Accordingly we see that almost all men become a burden to themselves. Boredom makes beings who love each other so little as men do, seek each other eagerly, and thus becomes the source of social intercourse. As want is the constant scourge of the people, so boredom is that of the fashionable world. In middle-class life boredom is represented by the Sunday, and want by the six week-days.

From the first appearance of consciousness, a man finds himself a willing being, and as a rule, his knowledge remains in constant relation to his will. He first seeks to know thoroughly the objects of his desire, and then the means of attaining them. Now he knows what he has to do, and, as a rule, he does not strive after other knowledge. He moves and acts; his consciousness keeps him always working directly and actively towards the aims of his will; his thought is concerned with the choice of motives. Such is life for almost all men; they wish, they know what they wish, and they strive after it, with sufficient success to keep them from despair, and sufficient failure to keep them from boredom and its consequences. They press forward with much earnestness, and indeed with an air of importance; thus children also pursue their play.

Artur Schopenhauer – The World As Will. Second Aspect

The Church

“What is ‘The Church’?” asked Beelzebub severely, reluctant to believe that his servants were cleverer than he.

“Well, when people tell lies and feel that they won’t be believed, they always call God to witness and say, ‘By God, what I say is true!’ That, in substance, is ‘The Church,’ but with this peculiarity: that those who recognize themselves as being ‘The Church’ become convinced that they cannot err, and so whatever nonsense they may utter they can never recant it.

‘The Church’ is constituted in this way: men assure themselves and others that their teacher, God, to ensure that the law he revealed to men should not be misinterpreted, has given power to certain men, who, with those to whom they transfer this power, can alone correctly interpret his teaching. So these men, who call themselves ‘The Church,’ regard themselves as holding the truth, not because what they preach is true, but because they consider themselves the only true successors of the disciples of the disciples of the disciples – and finally of the disciples of the teacher, God himself. They accepted sixty-six different books as being the sacred exposition of the law of God, and declared that every word in those books was the production of the Holy Ghost.

Over the simple and easily understood truth they poured such a heap of pseudo-sacred truths that it became impossible either to accept them all or to find among them the one truth which is alone necessary for man.

Leo Tolstoy – Restoration of Hell

Rationalism as Faith

It may be said of the eighteenth century that it was an age of faith as well as of reason, and of the thirteenth century that it was an age of reason as well as of faith.

Since eighteenth-century writers employed reason to discredit Christian dogma, a “rationalist” in common parlance came to mean an “unbeliever,” one who denied the truth of Christianity. In this sense Voltaire was a rationalist, St. Thomas a man of faith. But this use of the word is unfortunate, since it obscures the fact that reason may be employed to support faith as well as to destroy it.

There were, certainly, many differences between Voltaire and St. Thomas, but the two men had much in common for all that. What they had in common was the profound conviction that their beliefs could be reasonably demonstrated.

Carl L. Becker – The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers

Contrary Objects

In dreams we all experience contrary objects. We are often asleep in a room, and actually not in the room, just up the street, talking to a man who turns out to be a plant or an edifice, without ceasing to be human. Still, apart from the nonsense of logic, we live through, without surprise, the nonsenses of nature, fantastically stuck characters and events, we do miracles and experience them with remarkable ease, and above all, without a trace of surprise, doubt, anxiety, without the need for scrutiny from the other senses and others sentient.

At home we read Ovid and experience with him clusters of trees and people, the transformation of stones and animals, deities in human and animal bodies do not offend us at all – yes: we are amused and occupied by sirens, chimeras, dragons, angels, devils, metamorphoses, incarnations and ascensions.

In religious beliefs we also have an inexhaustible source of clusters with so brightly self-excluding characteristics: we have passions of the innocent in the name of justice, and even love, we have responsibility without guilt, and next to the impossibility of logical and moral paradoxes, infinite series of natural impossibilities in the form of miracles and legends. The whole world, so vivid in childhood and natural in the mind of primitive men, compatible with all the childish, fairytalelike view on things – persists in many mature minds.

Wladyslaw Witwicki – The philosophy of science